Restaurateur Ken Friedman, owner of the famed Spotted Pig eatery in New York City, has been accused in a new exposé of regularly groping numerous female employees as well as demanding sex and nude photos of them.
Perhaps the most alarming portion of the New York Times report, though, centers on an alleged “rape room” — a third-floor space in Friedman's West Village property where public sex is on display. The area earned its graphic nickname among restaurant employees and industry insiders.
“When he wasn’t coming on to us, he was screaming at us.”
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 12, 2017
In an alleged 2007 incident that took place in front of comedian Amy Poehler, former server Trish Nelson said Friedman once grabbed her head while she was bending over to pick up some glasses and pulled it toward his crotch, quipping, “While you're down there.”
“Aside from hanging my head in painful humiliation, I did nothing,” Nelson wrote in an October Facebook post, per the Times. “I can't even retell this story now without getting teary.”
Poehler, speaking to the Times through a representative, said she has “no recollection” of the alleged incident but called it “horrible” nonetheless.
In another incident, Nelson, who worked at the restaurant for six years, claimed Friedman once invited her out to his car to smoke pot. He then lunged forward and stuck his tongue into her mouth, Nelson said. She noted she “couldn't believe” it happened and soon thereafter gave her notice.
And Carla Rza Betts, who used to serve as the wine director for the Breslin Bar & Dining Room, another restaurant owned by Friedman, claimed he sexually harassed her on multiple occasions.
“There is a grab-ass, superfun late-night culture — I love that part of the industry. But there is a difference between fun and sexualized camaraderie and predation,” she told the Times. “When you are made to feel unsafe or dirty or embarrassed, that is a different thing.”
— ken friedman (@Kennewyork) October 20, 2016
Betts accused Friedman of hugging her inappropriately and slapping her buttocks on occasion. But in 2009, she said, it escalated. Friedman, Betts claimed, forcibly kissed her when he took her to a rooftop bar near Breslin.
“In the moment you are not thinking at all,” she recalled. “He's your boss. You don't punch him. You just don't kiss back, and pull away and try to shake it off.”
After Betts left the bar, she said Friedman continued to text her into the night requesting “a sexy picture” of her:
“He’s your boss. You don’t punch him. You just don’t kiss back, and pull away and try to shake it off.”
She left and was in a cab home when the texts started. “G’nite gorgeous. Send me a sexy picture,” he wrote.https://t.co/4GkypC3oy0
— Danielle Ivory (@danielle_ivory) December 12, 2017
The Spotted Pig opened in 2004 with the financial backing of celebrities like Jay-Z, Bono, and well-known chef Mario Batali.